Have you heard that the average person swallows eight spiders per year? No? Are you freaked out? Don’t worry, because it’s not actually true. It’s one of those stories known as an “Urban myth.” Someone has been told a piece of information as a science fact, when it’s actually a load of made-up nonsense that sounds like it could be true. In fact, our face is quite sensitive. Even when asleep, it will react to the feeling of something crawling over it. Ever been told that a spider is more scared of you, than you are of it? Spiders do not have a death wish to crawl into your mouth, any more than Lando Calrissian wanted to see inside the giant mouth of the Sarlaac in the Star Wars film “Return of the Jedi.”
Maybe you’ve never believed the spider story (or just been told it was less spiders!). Well then… Did you know that tapping a can of fizzy drink won’t prevent the contents from spilling over; and eating carrots won’t actually make you see in the dark? “Hang on a second!” You might say. “I’ve been deceived! I’ve been tapping my fizzy drinks cans for years!” It’s obviously not a big deal, but if you’ve done that or been eating carrots to see at night (when it doesn’t work), you’ll feel wrongly influenced.
In the bit we read, a woman who is nicknamed “Jezebel” has gained influence and is misleading a group of God’s people with false ideas. Claiming special knowledge, she takes up the status of a prophet to convince people into believing that some ungodly practices are okay. Her words are manipulative; and like a seductive poison that controls, people are falling for it. Jesus opens with, “The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire” (v18). This is the only time in the book of Revelation that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God, showing that His authority is greater than the one trying to exert power over others. His response to this “Jezebel” is “Did you think I wouldn’t notice??? Turn away from your false teachings that are misleading others!” With eyes like a flame of fire, not only can Jesus see how she was misleading people, but also her refusal to stop deceiving people. By calling her “Jezebel,” Jesus is showing how she is operating like the Old Testament Queen who was known for her evil deeds and ways of manipulation and control of others.
This is happening among a group of God’s people that were doing really well. They’ve demonstrated love and faith, service and perseverance (v19), which any group of believers would be thankful for. Even better, some are continuing to grow in these ways. Unfortunately they‘ve also allowed a false prophet to gain status within their church, and she is beginning to control others. It could be that she was using paranormal means to charm people in to thinking she had some special connection to God. But the important question has to be: How can I tell whether I’m being led by God or misled by evil? Ask yourself this question: Does its outcome lead to the loving and obeying of Jesus, to selflessly putting others first and of the patient endurance mentioned in verse 19? The teaching by some in Thyatira was leading to the very opposite! Clearly these words did not come from God.
Like urban myths, it’s possible to be taken in by popular ideas that sound reasonable, but are actually poison. Therefore the Lord is stepping in, to bring judgement to “Jezebel” and her children (meaning her followers). Sometimes it’s necessary to confront those, who falsely lay claim to leadership positions clearly not given by God. Verse 27 shows the perfect balance of a leader. “And He will rule them with a rod of iron,” is taken from Psalm 2:9, but is not the harsh idea of governing strictly. The word for “rule” here actually means “tend” as a shepherd leads his sheep. The rod is an unbreakable staff, which carefully guides the sheep, but strikes those intending to do harm. People of Thyatira would have recognised the picture language of pottery, since clay was used as moulds to cast bronze statues of false gods. One day, these casts would be shattered; and with them the controlling power and influence over the people.
Lord Jesus. You are the bright and morning star, the Lord who brings victory out of the darkest of times. You are the light of the world. Amen!
This blog is an extract from Paul Martin's new book called "Beasts, horsemen ...and an apocalypse." The book contains 49 devotions for young people that take the reader through this last book of the Bible. BUY THE BOOK
Photo of can on beach: Jelle De Gier (Unsplash)